Everything You Need To Know About The Snake Plant

Published on October 30th 2020
A Snake Plant in a terracotta pot
Ease yourself into plant parenthood with the all foliage-no fuss Snake Plant, aka Dracaena trifasciata.
Thanks to their tough nature and striking architectural appearance, the Snake Plant is a top houseplant of choice for beginners or time-stretched plant lovers. The Snake Plant belongs to the genus Dracaena trifasciata, formally known as Sansevieria trifasciata.
Common names for this popular ornamental include Mother-In-Law's Tongue (we like to think it's after their sharp wit) and Viper's Bowstring Hemp (as the plant fibres were used to make bowstrings).
The Snake Plant comes in a range of variations but is distinguishable by its rigid, dark green, tapered, sword-like leaves, edged with yellow and covered in pretty mottled markings. Their pointy, upright habit makes them great for sprucing up small spaces or offices.

What is a Snake Plant?

Native to arid, rocky conditions in tropical Africa, the Snake Plant has long been associated with good luck and is used in rituals to banish evil in its native Nigeria.
The Snake Plant was first brought to the Western world's attention in 1794 by the Swedish naturalist Carl Peter Thunberg. He named it after the Italian Prince Raimondo di Sangro, who came from San Severo.
However, it was reclassified after a 2014 study found that Sansevieria is paraphyletic to Dracaena (descended from a common evolutionary ancestor). As the name Dracena has been around for longer, it became subsumed by that name rather than the other way around. In many horticultural circles, the name Sansevieria has stuck despite the change occurring many years ago.
While considered a weed in some parts of Australia, it has become a popular houseplant thanks to its ability to put up with low light conditions and thrive on irregular watering.

How to grow Snake Plant

The Snake Plant is an easy to care for succulent which can survive without regular watering. To keep the Snake Plant in tip-top condition, plant in a free-draining, sandy soil mix and allow the soil to dry out thoroughly between waterings. In winter, you may only need to water once every month or so. Try not to pour any water into the rosette as this can lead to rot.

When to propagate my Snake Plant?

There are a couple of ways to fill your home with the Snake Plant's lush foliage. Firstly by cuttings. Slice off a healthy leaf with a sterile knife or scissors, then allow your cuttings to dry out before popping them in some cactus growing mix. Remember that you may lose some of the variegation using this method. The second option involves dividing the rhizomes, which you can do once your plant has reached a healthy size.

Can my Snake Plant survive without sunlight?

Dracaena trifasciata is often lauded as a low light lover. However, this doesn't mean you should place it in the darkest corner of your room. While it's true Snake Plants are shade tolerant, a Snake Plant will thrive (and even flower) if you supply it with enough bright indirect light or grow lights. A happy plant will grow fast and can reach around 1m -1.5m tall. Another thing to note is that the further away from a light source they are positioned, the darker the leaves and the less prominent the variegation will be.

Can my Snake Plant grow outside?

Snake Plants do well outside in warmer climates, particularly if kept in a sheltered, sunny position. In the UK, they should be protected from winter wet and frost.

Which Snake Plant is best for air purification?

In 1989, The NASA Clean Air Study found that, among others, Variegated Dracaena was effective at removing pollutants from the air. Under controlled conditions, the species tested Dracaena trifasciata 'Laurentii' managed to remove four out of the five toxins. However, it has been suggested that the average home might not be able to replicate these results. An air purifier or not, the stylish Snake Plant wins a spot in our window for its fabulously flashy foliage alone.
There are many varieties of Snake Plant available to buy. Find the right Sanserviera for your spot here:

Are Snake Plants poisonous?

Snake Plants contain saponins, which are considered mildly toxic to cats and dogs, so best to keep them away from curious pets and children.

Where to buy Dracaena trifasciata

Looking for a Snake Plant with a fancy pot, stylist stand or even a Snake Plant grown in Kokedama? Look no further than Candide, where you can buy a range of gorgeous Snake Plants today.
Main Photo: Kara Eads, Unsplash
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